The Five: One Crazy Busy Summer

Anthony R. Miller Checks in with a million different things to do.

Hey you guys, I don’t know about you, but I’m having one crazy summer and I’m not talking about the 1986 classic starring John Cusack. I’m talk about how crazy busy I have been the last few months. The crazy part is that they have been some of the best in a long time. Best Summer Ever? Perhaps, and perhaps not. But I do a have a few thoughts I’d like to share with you, predictably, there are five.

Everyone Should Be Using “Slack”

TERROR-RAMA 2: Prom Night has opened shop. The first Public Reading / Fundraiser is this October, Pre-Production and Dramaturgy Meetings are happening and I’m pretty excited. One of the big changes were making this time is that all communication for the show runs through one place now, a delightful little app called “Slack”. It’s basically a social network for your project and the people working on it. Instead of long email chains, group messages on Facebook, and back and forth texting, all communication happens through the app. You can share files, do direct messaging and tag certain members for specific messages. It makes communication so much simpler, and in theatre, bad communication can kill a show, seriously try it. I’m a believer.

Oh Wow, This Might Be Kind of Good

The crazy adventure of my Olympians play begins with writing bits and pieces of whatever scene I think of and then go back linking them all together. I never write like this, and now I know why. It’s so friggin inefficient, I mean how can you really be sure how someone is going o talk in scene six when you haven’t written scene 3 yet? I’ve been finding myself re-working previously written scenes so that they all serve one narrative. The fun has been finding the story in all my goofy ideas. Usually, I start with an outline and then build my script from there, I always write chronologically, except for this play. It’s been pretty fun seeing how scenes and characters change as you start shaping scenes and characters. Seeing the story come out kind of organically has been fun thus far, but again super inefficient. The crazy part is what started as a goofy idea is becoming actually kind of good and maybe even actually about something. And by god, it’ll be under 45 minutes.

Sentence by Sentence

I took a new freelance job recently that involves me taking congressional records for the early 1800’s and formatting them into a script. It’s a whole new level of tedious. I’m basically taking one person’s record of what people did and said and having to change the tenses and make it dialog. Because I am such a nerd, this is actually really fun for me. It’s basically dialog boot camp. I’ve had to break up speeches that go on for PAGES (these guys could talk) sentence by sentence. I have never examined a sentence so closely. To have to obsess over every word and intention has been a really fascinating learning experience and also payback for all the English classes I duly ignored.

Disposable Art

Another freelance gig I took this summer was creating content for a nifty new social media app that didn’t last too long. For three months I made all sorts of neat stuff and got paid to basically screw around on my phone. I wrote a ton about music, made web-comics about my cat talking to Taylor Swift, and created different ways to say “Go Fuck Yourself”. Some of it was actually pretty good, and now it’s gone forever. The app has shut down and all this content, or dare I say, art, created by people is just gone. I often joke about “Disposable Art”, which I call art that is enjoyable at the time, but doesn’t stay with you forever, just long enough for the next one. But this was truly and literally disposable art, art that once existed and is now gone, much like all of my poetry from High School. (Which is probably a good thing.)

Whoa Did I Just Direct the School Play?

Over the last few years, I’ve been teaching more and more. I find myself a little shocked at how much I enjoy it and how I seem to be pretty decent at it. This summer gave me my busiest teaching schedule yet. The summer began with the big performance for an after school drama program I had been teaching. Since it was first year working there, I kept expectations low and promised very little. We had spent a few months working on scenes from Alice in Wonderland and I figured it’d be good to have a few kids there, maybe some parents. “Nothing major, maybe just 20 people” I said, but on the day of the performance, the whole school was there, along with parents. Before the show began I took a minute to look out at the crowd and I thought to myself “Whoa, did I just direct the school play?” It seems, however inadvertently, that I had. An odd sense of accomplishment swept over me, and sure all the things that are supposed to happen in a junior high play, happened. One kid was better than everyone, I had to stall in between scenes, and one girl forgot her lines and ran off crying. I also saw the odd phenomenon of my most difficult students who almost never listened to me, be suddenly struck by the reality of 100 people watching them, and become incredibly dependent on me, hanging on my every instruction. The best part was that I handled it, pep talks were given, mothers thanked me and the kids seemed genuinely happy. It was the first time I myself as a legit educator, so that’s something.

So that’s been my summer so far, and it’s been fulfilling as hell. I’ve been working, being creative and doing stuff that I’m happy with. It’s amazing how many way there are to create art for a living. Till next time.

Anthony R. Miller does many things; learn all about them at

The Five: A Theatre Nerd Looks Back on GLEE

Anthony R. Miller Checks in with his farewell to a show that should have ended a long ass time ago, but didn’t so here we are.

Last Friday marked the series finale of GLEE, a show about singing and dancing teenagers. Some would argue that it’s final 12 episode season was a mercy killing. With a revolving door of cast members, hack writing, plot inconsistencies you could drive a truck though and the nagging feeling of “Wait, am I the only one who’s notice Will Scheuster is a TERRIBLE teacher”? So why is this relevant to Bay Area theatre? Well, I feel in love with this show while living in SF, hanging out with other theatre friends, watching, totally blown away that a musical comedy had become mainstream culture. The show may have been awful, but deep inside we all rooted for it. As a former high school theatre nerd who was anything but popular, I couldn’t help but be excited to see a show where annoying, over enthusiastic, socially awkward kids who were passionate about expressing themselves were the main character. But it went to hell eventually and as we stand in the smoking crater that was the bad writing fiasco known as GLEE, I have a few thoughts, as usual, there are Five

A Show About High School Theatre Nerds

Seriously you guys, this was as close to a mainstream television about teenage theatre nerds as we get since FAME. It was a TV show about kids who wanted to express their friggin feelings and had the ability to do so through the performing arts. And sure, it was show Choir, not actual Musical Theatre. We had a pretty decent theatre department in my High School and a good band department, but I can’t recall a show choir, did we have that? I gotta be honest, even Sondheim listenin’, Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat singin’ , theatre dork Anthony would think Show Choir sounded lame. Every now and then they would throw us a bone and do a show tune that wasn’t from wicked. (One assumes too many show tunes hurt album sales and who doesn’t need a copy of Idina Menzel and Lea Michelle singing “Poker Face”.) Let’s not forget though, all of these wildly talented kids didn’t want to be professional show choir singers, they wanted to be on Broadway. So if nothing else, it was a show about dorks in High School who had the same dream we had when we were High School Theatre Dorks. Most importantly, this was a show about the safe place that the arts can create. These kids found their true selves because of a High School Arts Program, even though it turns out some of their true selves were assholes, that’s beside the point.

My Kid Loves This Show

My nine year old daughter has become obsessed with this show. Which is a big step (I guess) up from whatever is on the Disney Channel. The best part though? Every time two guys kiss, or two girls kiss, or one person expresses their their romantic love to someone of the same sex, my kid doesn’t flinch. There has been no “Why is that boy kissing that boy?” conversations. You know, the conversation that all the parents who trash the show are mortified of having? She doesn’t know what a huge deal it is, to her it’s just…GLEE. Although at some point I assume she’ll ask me what “scissoring” is.

Then the Writing Got Really Shitty

It’s as if I have dated GLEE for 6 years, and it’s all because of one really fantastic first date and a really good second and third. GLEE’s Pilot still stands as one of the best pilots ever. It was funny, weird and really touching. It went south in a hurry. For those not familiar with Ryan Murphy, (Creator of GLEE, nip/Tuck and American Horror Story) he has a tendency to start strong and go unimaginably off the rails as the show progresses into later seasons. And GLEE got painfully bad, a show that once had ten million viewers a week, had plummeted to 2 Million. Musical numbers because incredibly forced, characters would disappear and re-appear with no explanation, even when a character would, self referentially point out how bat-shit crazy a plot had become, nothing actually changes, they just wanted to let you know that they know. It is my belief that the biggest alcoholics in Hollywood are staff writers for GLEE . They’d have to be, here’s a dramatic version of how a normal day might go;

(RYAN MURPHY and IAN BRENNAN enters the writers room.)

RYAN: Ok guys so, this week is our “Twerking” Episode.

WRITER 1: Seriously? An episode about Twerking?

RYAN: Twerking is huge , and we need to do a twerking episode so kids can see it on TV and believe they can twerk someday too.

IAN: Oh and we want Will Scheuster to Sing “Blurred Lines” while the Cheerios (The High School Cheerleaders, who are in fact supposed to be 16.) Twerk next to him. Have fun!

(They leave.)

WRITER 1: Sweet jesus I cant do this anymore

WRITER 2: We have to; it’s our job I’ve got a mortgage and two kids

WRITER 3: I went to Yale dammit!

WRITER 2: I hate myself for writing this as much as you do but it doesn’t matter! (Takes out large jug of Whiskey and pours it into his coffee cup till it slightly overflows, he gulps down half of it.) Ok I’m ready.

WRITER 1: (Pulls out his own bottle and drinks from it like it’s the water of life, he hiccups, almost vomits and swallows it down.) OK Scene 1, Blaine is dusting a piano while Twerking.

Kurt’s Dad Tho

Inarguably, the constant glimmer of hope in even the worst episode was Mr. Burt Hummel (Huh, Burt and Kurt, I just caught that.) The Middle America, blue collar average dude, who just happens to be the most loving, understanding and progressive Dad on TV, like ever. Was he a guy who was coming to grips with accepting his gay son? Sure, but he loved his gay son, defended him, stood up for him, he let Kurt be Kurt. Burt gave impassioned speeches promoting tolerance and understanding; there has never been a bad scene with this guy in it. I don’t know how many times I would exclaim while watching or post on Facebook “Kurt’s Dad”! With a show full of openly gay kids, their accepting teachers and friends, Burt was the face of America still getting used to all the changes in the world, but he did it because deep inside he was a good dude, he is representative of all our liberal hopes and dreams that even the most beer drinking, John Cougar Mellencamp listenin’, Blue collar guy can be an ally.

Taking What We Can Get

Real talk, by Season 3 GLEE had become a train wreck, but try as I might, I never stopped watching. I’d turn the volume down when Lea Michelle would do her umpteenth Barbara Streisand tribute, sometimes I’d shout “There is no reason for you to sing that song!”, and it is a well known rule that once a popular song is sung on GLEE, it isn’t cool anymore. (This is probably why, Dave Grohl never let Nirvana or Foo Fighters songs be used.) But as I said before, this was all the representation Theatre Dorks got in Mainstream Culture. Sure, in the midst of GLEE-mania came SMASH (which I loved, but was in small company.) But not since FAME was their a show about the kids I went to High School with, the kid I was I was. GLEE may have been awful far longer than it was goods, but sometimes we need to take what we can get from Mainstream Culture. In the end we had a show that pushed the importance of Arts Education, never giving up, finding strength and community amongst your fellow underdog, and Social Progressivism. Oh and Jane Lynch, she was the funniest fucking thing ever.

So Goodbye Glee, and don’t let the door hit you on the ass on the way out.

Anthony R. Miller is a Writer, Director and Producer. Keep up with his project at